Ditchling Beacon

There’s a wonderful soft light to the South Downs, and there are spectacular views from the top of the Downs all the way to the coast, and along the spine of the chalk hills that comprise the South Downs.

One of the enchanting aspects of walking the Downs is the sense of layers that are laid out before you. Ditchling Beacon is my nearest viewpoint, and it’s the perfect place to capture these layers. First of all there’s the grass along the paths, and the wildflowers along the fences. Then there are the fields of every shade and colour in the middle distance. And topping it off are big skies.

Improving your holiday photos #1

It’s that time of year again. The sun is out (mostly) and the UK is holidaying. Wherever you choose to go this year there will always be the holiday snaps. Perhaps that’s all you want, a record of where you’ve been, and who you’ve been with, but with the ultimate destination for our holiday photos being social media, we all need to try and make the most of our images.

The single simple improvement to your image, whether it’s a smart phone or a camera, is composition. It’s the easiest thing in the world to point your camera at your loved one and end of with a person front and centre of the shot. It’s also the most boring image.

Here’s one simple tip to help you take a more interesting shot. When photographing a person, put them to one side of the centre, but looking towards the centre of the image. A good rule is to put the person (or other subject) about a third of the way in from one side, and one third of the way up from the bottom of the frame. The eye naturally follows where someone is looking, so if they are looking out of the frame, your eye will follow. So, place them looking in to the empty space in the image and you naturally follow that.

Take a look at the image above and see how it follows this principle.

Beach Huts – A Very British Thing

Hastings Pier and Beach Huts at Sunset

The town of Hastings, nestled between two hills on the South Coast of England is one of those archetypal British resorts. There’s the old town, with all its quirkiness, and the new town alongside, stretching the promenade all the way along the coast. The pier has been subject to a recent modernisation project, but from a distance looks just the same as many UK piers.

The beach huts are ubiquitous all along this coast. For most resorts the choice of paint is up to the individual, resulting in many colours, and much fading and flaking. When I saw this set of beach huts by Hastings Pier I loved the uniformity of colour as well as the freshness of the paint. They make a wonderful foreground contrast to the pier and the setting sun.

A Sliver of Sand and Sea

A sliver of sand and sea at Southport, UK

For anyone who follows this blog this image will be no surprise. I’m constantly looking for the archetypal unfocal image, one that doesn’t draw the eye to a particular spot, but is restful to look at and enduring in its appeal. When the light is right, the light is all you need. In this case the sliver of sand and sea give sufficient context to take the image out of the abstract while still being soft and unfocal.

Belfast City Life

Belfast City
Belfast City

There’s something about cities – the buzz, the people, the multiplicity of styles and cultures. There’s a little bit of everything. It’s often difficult to encapsulate this into an instant, to take a slice of that life and freeze frame it, but street photography tries to do just that. It’s a difficult thing to undertake these days when no-one wants their picture taken, but the results, when done right, are just that: a slice of city life.

Donegal Donkeys

Donegal Donkeys

The Donegal coast of Ireland really is a must see. From Malin Head to Fanad Lighthouse to Downings and the Atlantic Drive, and on round to Portnblagh the views are to die for, whether it’s sunny or shady. My personal favourite is the Atlantic Drive starting from Downings. Round every turn of the road another vista opens itself up to the eye. The northern light casts a beauty that envelops beaches, houses, roads with a quality that is hard to capture. You’ve got to be there!

But if you can’t, a photograph catches something of that light, of that beauty, of that atmosphere. One of my favourites from our road trip is this image of a couple of donkeys that came to say hello as we stopped to admire the view.

Snow Capped Mourne Mountains

Snow

One of my favourite things to see on the coast is marram grass. The North West coast of England is suffused with sand dunes and marram – that’s where the name of my photography business came from. It’s not so common on this side of the Irish Sea, but on a visit to Murlough Bay a few weeks ago I was delighted not only to find acres of marram and gorse, but also to see that the Mourne Mountains still had a dusting of snow on top. Put two of my favourite things to photograph together and you get a wonderful combination of foreground and background, with just a hint of sea in the middle.

If you would like to own a print for yourself please do drop me a line. I can supply framed or unframed. The following print fit very nicely into IKEA’s simple black frames if you’d like to do it yourself. Prices are £55 for 30cm x 22cm, £75 for 40cm x 30cm, both prices are plus delivery. Other sizes are available, please get in touch to enquire.

Words and Pictures

Mournes from Murlough
Mournes from Murlough

There was a comment made on Twitter a few days ago in response to the wonderful Secret Britain TV programme on our wee country. The comment was that we need to market ourselves better – a comment with which I wholeheartedly agree. Since coming back this side of the Irish Sea I’ve been surprised by how underdeveloped the tourism industry is. In comparison, one of our favourite spots in the Lake District is Tarn Hows – it’s miles from anywhere, up at the top of a mountain (as Tarns, by definition are), and yet there is still a car park and ‘facilities’. Every village and coastal town worth visiting in England has coffee shops and parking and facilities. Often you have to pay for parking, but the ability to travel knowing you have somewhere to park and somewhere to eat makes it worthwhile.

What is at the same time the beauty of and the frustration of Northern Ireland’s many wonderful locations is that we don’t do tourism very well. I love the fact that I can visit an unspoilt cover, or a huge beach (such as Murlough above) and not have to pay for parking or be overwhelmed by other tourists. I hate the fact that large areas are inaccessible (how much of Lough Neagh can you get to?) and most are underdeveloped.

As an avid consumer of our coast and countryside I would love to see it consumed my more of our local population and visited by more UK visitors as well as those from beyond our isles. What would be nicer than to have car parks with cafes and helpful staff at all our major attractions?

But before we get to that we need to let people know what we have got! We live in one of the most beautiful parts of the British Isles, but we don’t let people know. I for one believe that in this case at least, pictures speak louder than words. So, the picture above is just another encouragement to discover Northern Ireland for yourself.